Reflections on the Latest Pew Survey Documenting "Religious Decline" – Not So Fast

051315A well-publicized Pew Survey given publicity in yesterday’s Washington Post announced a kind of “doom” for traditional religion in this country. I do not dispute most of the results as an accurate snapshot of today.

But snapshots have a way of recording things that eventually are replaced by other realities in the ensuing years. It is clear that what we have called “traditional religious practice” is in trouble. Cultural trends no longer favor the Sunday observance or the sectarian loyalty with which many of us over fifty grew up.

A mere fifty years ago, a snapshot of American religious practice would have depicted us as a vastly religious country, deeply rooted in sectarian loyalties and invested in the Judeo-Christian heritage.

What a difference fifty years has made! And who is to say that things won’t be different in another fifty years?

The Pew survey announces what we already know: Americans are very dissociated from sectarian religion and religious practice.  The erosion is steady, and, if we are honest, those of us who do attend have been noticing it for years.

All this said, in my 54+ years on this planet, I have seen a lot of shifting in religious observance. Any study of the history of this country will show lots of ups and downs. I am not so ready to cry doomsday for the Church or religion as a whole. Americans, and humans in general, are a fickle lot: what is “out” today has a way of being “in” tomorrow.

Some will argue that secularism is a megatrend that will continue to grow until there is no place for religion at all. We shall see. Something tells me (e.g., the Lord in Matthew 16) that the Church, with a 2000-year history and 3000 years before that in the Jewish situation, is here to stay. That Timothy should be told by St. Paul to preach the Gospel in season and out of season, suggests that winter is as much a part of the picture as is spring. One Pew survey does not seal our fate.

Yet we ought not simply ignore surveys like these either. Perhaps we can evangelize more effectively; perhaps we can be clearer or more aware of ways to reach this secular world.

But in the end, do not allow a snapshot to be a megatrend. As I write this reflection, a group of college students from American University is singing a concert of mostly sacred music in our Church. In the days of my own “secular rebellion” during college, it was Catholic music that called me back. At this very moment, the choir is singing “Ave Maria” by Josquin Des Prez (see video below). Perhaps in ten years the seeds of beauty, goodness, and truth sown by this music will come to fruition in the lives of some of these students and listeners as it did for me. For now, they live in a secular world and attend a secular university. But music, the Spirit, and the Lord have their way. If it could reach me it will reach them if that is necessary. I intend to go to each of them and call Mother Mary’s gratitude on them for the song and other beautiful sacred pieces they sang.

Let’s look at some excerpts from the Washington Post article summarizing the Pew research poll. The original text is in bold, black italics. My comments are in plain, red text. These are only excerpts; the full article is here: Sharp Decline.

Christianity is on the decline in America, not just among younger generations or in certain regions of the country but across race, gender, education and geographic barriers. The percentage of adults who describe themselves as Christians dropped by nearly eight percentage points in just seven years to about 71 percent, according to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center.

The situation is much worse in parts of Europe, where close to 70% identify as atheist[*]. Europe-wide only about 10% of Catholics go to Mass at all. The problem there began shortly after World War II. I have written before about how C.S. Lewis decried the loss of faith in Europe as early as 1948 in his Latin Letters.

The country is becoming less religious as a whole, and it’s happening across the board. … In 1990, 86 percent of American adults identified as Christians, compared with 76 percent in 2008.

Here are three key takeaways from Pew’s new survey.

1 . Millennials are growing even less affiliated with religion as they get older … “Some have asked, ‘Might they become more religiously affiliated as they get older?’ There’s nothing in this data to suggest that’s what’s happening,” he said. Millennials get married later than older generations, but they are not necessarily more likely to become religiously affiliated, he said.

I have found, in my own life and in what I have observed in the lives of others, that there is really no way for anyone to predict this. At the age of 20 I would never have thought that I would even be a believer today, let alone a priest. Events and the people we meet have a lot to do with belief and with our future.

2. There are more religiously unaffiliated Americans than Catholic Americans or mainline Protestant Americans. The numbers of Catholics and Protestants have each shrunk between three and five percentage points since 2007. The evangelical share of the American population has dropped by one percentage point since 2007.

This is not surprising. In my 25 years a priest, the number of Catholics in the pews of the Washington Archdiocese has decreased (on average) by one percent per year, according to our own internal statistics. Nationwide, those who say they are Catholic has increased by over 15 million during that same time period [*]. But, the “real” number of Catholics is the count of those who are in the pews each Sunday, and this number has surely dropped. Catholics who do not attend Mass are of no real account to parish life other than the fact that they are one confession away from returning to the faith. They are not utterly lost, therefore, but on the “endangered and MIA Catholics” list to be sure.

The groups experience their losses through what’s called “religious switching,” when someone switches from one faith to another. Thirteen percent of Americans were raised Catholic but are no longer Catholic, compared with just 2 percent of Americans who are converts to Catholicism. “That means that there are more than six former Catholics for every convert to Catholicism,” Smith said. “There’s no other group in the survey that has that ratio of loss due to religious switching.”

There are 3 million fewer Catholics today than there were in 2007. While the percentage of Catholics in the United States has remained relatively steady, Smith said we might be observing the beginning of the decline of the Catholic share of the population.

I suppose by this he means “practicing Catholics,” since the overall number of Catholics has grown along with the increase in U.S. population [*].

Pew estimates there are about 5 million fewer mainline Protestants than there were in 2007.

Some in the Catholic Church think we should imitate the “give the people what they want” mentality of the mainline Protestants. This statistic shows that they are doing even worse than Catholics and Evangelicals, who toe a stricter biblical line on moral issues.

Evangelical Protestants have experienced less decline, due to their net positive retention rate. For every person who has left evangelical Protestantism after growing up, 1.2 have switched to join an evangelical denomination.

OK, but they were small to begin with, and there is a lot of revolving door, “going to the latest ‘hip’ service” among the Evangelicals. Frankly, a lot of them are ending up with us, after they finish running through all the ephemeral evangelical denominations and trends. If they read Church history and ponder theological consistency, they often head our way. We have many magnificent converts from the Evangelical denominations.

3. Those who are unaffiliated are becoming more secular – The “nones,” or religiously unaffiliated, include atheists, agnostics and those who say they believe in “nothing in particular.” Of those who are unaffiliated, 31 percent describe themselves as atheists or agnostics, up six points from 2007.

This may run its course since this state of affairs is not normal to the human person or experience.

“What we’re seeing now is that the share of people who say religion is important to them is declining,” Smith said. “The religiously unaffiliated are not just growing, but as they grow, they are becoming more secular.”

But I wonder if it can really be said that their credulousness has lessened. Chesterton once said that when people stop believing in God, it is not they believe nothing, but that they will believe in anything. Today very strange notions are becoming almost religious obsessions. The secular notions of “tolerance” and “niceness” have become almost dogma, such that any naysayer is guilty of “hate” and should be subject to nothing less than arrest or loss of a job or even jail (this is their form of excommunication). Original sin has been replaced by “anthropogenic global warming” and other deep-seated human flaws that speak to our apparent depravity and that we are really at the heart of “paradise lost.” Recycling, even the sorts of recycling that consume more resources than getting new resources, is insisted upon with a sort of religious zeal that is way out-of-balance with purely scientific analysis.

I do not say that these issues have no rational basis; I only point out that they are almost religiously insisted upon in a way that has often eclipsed the same religious zeal of the past that is condemned by these same adherents to these modern “dogmas.”

Perhaps as time unfolds these new “orthodoxies” will be seen as trendy notions, and the new orthodoxy will be labeled the old orthodoxy by the very same fickle believers who are currently rejecting ancient Christian dogma. We shall see, but I am not impressed that the the current trends have the staying power that Pew, et. al. ascribe to them. 

White Americans (24 percent) are more likely to say they have no religion, compared with 20 percent of Hispanic Americans and 18 percent of black Americans. The retention rates of the “nones” who say they were raised as religiously affiliated has grown by seven points since 2007 to 53 percent.

I wonder, too, what birthrates will do to these percentages, since believers in “old-time religion” have higher birthrates than seculars who are not even replacing themselves. Worldwide, Muslims and traditional Catholics more than replace themselves, while seculars have a negative replacement rate.

Further, there is the “sorting out” phenomenon wherein those who stay in the Catholic faith will tend to be more pure in observance than the lukewarm who leave. A smaller but purer Church may result. There are some who say that those who speak of the smaller but purer church, get only smaller one.

Time will tell. My anecdotal experience is that those who remain are more intense, interested in Catholic truth, and up for a battle. Time will tell if this continues for the long term.

Be sober about these results, but not despondent. People are fickle and that cuts both ways!

Here is a video of the Choir of American University singing “Ave Maria” in our Church. I asked the director if he gets any “pushback” for singing this sort of religious music (they also sang Spirituals and Mass parts). He said, “No.”

If any of the students who sang or heard this music are among the “nones” (I do not know that any were), something tells me that not all will remain aloof from the faith that produces it.  Of this I am a witness.

34 Replies to “Reflections on the Latest Pew Survey Documenting "Religious Decline" – Not So Fast”

  1. Let the exodus of believers to being ‘nones’ happen if it is really happening. Let the numbers show and let them be revealed that the faithful will come to realize how we need to pray and intercede for the unbelievers. Do we ever think that The HOLY SPIRIT will allow these things to come to pass without a fight? Time and again the Church was on the brink of being annihilated by all worldly and funny ideas but the Church continued to flourish and brought forth more saints. Of course, that great crisis of a few priests’ sexual pedophilic escapades being continually magnified by the media affected the faithful but I believe it only showed that the greater number of priests who had sacrificed their lives and who are true to their vocation of bringing souls to GOD are now coming out into spotlight and uncovered by the many witnesses of believers. GOD will prevail because the enemy has now been revealed and its pangs have been rendered useless. YHWH NISSI!

  2. The statistic that jumped out at me was the one that had 13% of the U.S. population being former Catholics. To coincide with this is the 2% who convert from other religions to Catholicism.

    This harkens me back to the 90’s when I listened to Los Angeles radio talk show host, Dennis Prager, late Sunday eve program, “Religion On The Line.” It featured 3 religious clergy, Catholic, Jewish, and Protestant, plus the callers. He often said the show could be called the former Catholic hour or something along those lines since so many people who had once been Catholic had now left the church for a variety of reasons. The one that always stuck with me were the people who said they left the faith due to not having as personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Many as you probably suspect were now evangelical or fundamentalist Protestants.

    I don’t want to analyze this phenomenon much but will say that one area that gets mentioned in this is poor Catholic Catechism. Jesse Romero of Immaculate Heart Radio is often harping on this theme. How true or false it is I don’t know. My own experience with going through RCIA was fairly a good one. However, that was just a small part of the journey, my own initiative to become more in tune with my faith was what made the difference for me. If I had not done my own work in apologetic readings and the like, I would probably be a disinterested or nominal Catholic.

    1. ” However, that was just a small part of the journey, my own initiative to become more in tune with my faith was what made the difference for me.”–I think this is an important point that should be impressed upon both people going through RCIA and the already initiated, and that it is a life long effort.

  3. Materialism is the new religion today. As long as things supposedly fill the void within humans, God’s grace will go unheeded. Look at the malls on Sunday–packed. Or consider the sports arenas. Same thing. Evangelizing others is difficult in that when people try to proselytize me, it’s annoying. The way our parents and grandparents evangelized was to live as God wanted them to and to show good example. If someone asks me about my faith, I would give them a reason but I wouldn’t start a conversation about it. Some people are just not cut out to do that.

  4. Didn’t the Lord say that when He returns if he would find any faith left? He foresaw the devastation of faith in His Church and even suggested that the Church would become smaller yet purer. So perhaps the separating of sheep from the goats is happening now.

  5. Like Msgr. Pope does, I urge caution when reading the top-line results and surface-level interpretations of surveys like this one. People interpret survey questions in many different ways; people have different motivations for the answers they give; and, even if they give a truthful answer at the time, it does not mean it is true later that week. We are fickle people.

    Also, the survey provides no information on respondents’ motivations. So I would not jump to conclusions about why people leave, why they stay, whether our evangelization efforts are good enough, whether we reach out enough to various groups, etc. We can get more reliable data from in-depth interviews with those who left the church; and from our own experiences in the church.

    I would also push back on a general fixation with “size” as an indicator of the church’s vitality or health; and with comparisons of size over the years. Imagines or memories of full pews are pleasant indeed – but does that tell us that everyone was fully present? Actively in a relationship with God? Contributing to parish life? Open to the transformation that only Jesus can bring? Maybe; but not definitely.

    Today at my parish I see fewer parishoners than before – but it is clear they are at Mass willingly and freely. They want to be there, they choose to be there. Give me a smaller group of fully-present and -engaged Catholics over a larger number of disinterested Catholics any day of the week. To me, that is a healthier church. Of course, we must reach out to the disinterested and all others – but we should not beat ourselves up over a decline in a single indicator.

  6. Dear Monsignor,
    What the “European” information as to religious affiliation does not include is that in some European countries giving to church is either 1) legally compulsory if enrolled and adds a tax burden because the state collects the tax to send to the denomination, or 2) gifts to religious organizations cannot offset other tax obligations in the same way as other charitable donations. For this, a number of my personal acquaintance are in fact religious but not “enrolled,” attend and give but are not taxed at preset government rates. With governments purporting to do charitable acts such as social welfare becoming so bloated with expense and essentially corrupt, it is a rational behavior by many to “hide” their allegiance to their churches. One saw this also after the collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, in which the membership of the orthodox church seemingly exploded in numbers. It did not of course, because those believers were always there, but unseen by officialdom. The Pew report is faulty, and in my view directed at absolving those like the American Episcopal and Evangelical Lutheran churches, neither particularly Christian anymore, from their own loss of membership as people refuse the “new” gospel of political trends. Fear not. The church, with a little ‘c,’ prospers, and is underpinned by a tradition of culture which will outlast the impermanence of today’s religious “soviets.” The impermanence is what is represented in the Pew report, and that applies far more to “trendy” cutting-edge idiocy which has triumphed in leading some denominations to shed memberships.

    On a second subject, the recording of the choir is quite lovely for two reasons. Firstly the music speaks across centuries of faith, and secondly because the chortles and cries of infants is also a music singing praise of God and love and the permanence which is a product of faith as well as biology.

    God bless, and best wishes.

  7. Msgr Pope: The Wiki article that your footnote (beside the statement that 70% of parts of Europe is atheist) states that the Pew Forum found that only 18% of Europeans as a whole were either nones, atheists, or agnostics. Which would imply that 82% are theists of some kind. Since people could easily misunderstand your statement as true of Europe as a whole, it might be clearer to say that in France, the Netherlands, Sweden, Estonia, the Czech Repulic and Norway, 70% or more of the population don’t believe in any kind of God at all.

  8. Thank you for your realistic view of this issue. Just because something is one way doesn’t mean it has to be that way or continue to trend that way. I’m reminded of the visit to Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol” of the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. When Scrooge sees his own grave, neglected and forgotten, he asks the Ghost if this is the way it has to be or if the future can be different. The Ghost doesn’t answer, but we know that Scrooge is able to change the future by changing his behavior. Just because something (no matter how dire) is the way it is, doesn’t mean that it’s the way it necessarily has to be.

  9. In the UK there has been an attempt by secularists and atheists to claim the the numbers who did not declare a religion in the National Census in 2011.

    This trying to denigrate Christian and other beliefs hides the fact that there are very few agnostics and fewer atheists.
    In the National Census 2011 the data on religion in the spreadsheet
    Table QS210EW the numbers were :

    Total numbers England and Wales Cell E15 56,075912
    Christians Cell F 15 33,243,175
    Atheists Cell BE 15 29,267

    The number of declared Christians was 33,243,175 making them 59.28% of England and Wales and the number of declared atheists 29267 making them 0.052% of England and Wales.
    The number of declared agnostics was 32,382 making them 0.058% of the population.
    http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/guide-method/census/2011/index.html

  10. As was said here there has been a lot of shifting in religion over the previous 50 years so who can be sure what the future will bring—especially if God does what he frequently does for the Church –raise up saints who will build up His Church.
    One need only look at the former Soviet Union. It tried to make people atheists with a flood of propaganda, persecution, killings, gulags etc. But where is the Soviet Union now???
    Today, Russia is on a building spree of churches, cathedrals, monasteries, etc.
    And what Pew won’t say is that the effect of the soft persecution that is working its way through our culture can be more deadly for the weak faith of some than the terrors of the gulag.

  11. people are leaving for all kinds of different reasons. And some may come back eventually. I’m no expert but I’m a layman working with laymen and when I find out people use to be Catholic, I always ask what happened, I can’t help but think that I get more honesty than if a priest asked the same question.

    Here are the answers that I get.
    1) “Even the priests don’t buy what they’re selling” (and I get that, personally, if you come across as an angry old man, who is tired of baptisms, and funerals, and such, a priest seems more like a disgruntled factory worker who complains all the time as opposed to a man who holds the Body of Christ in his finger tips.

    2) “The people were unfriendly.” (say what ever you want about people who would walk away from eternal salvation based on a smile, but think about it, how much does a smile cost.)

    3) “I didn’t get “fed” there” (they mean scripturally not talking donuts here. I’m not saying these are good excuses but just what people who don’t go anymore say. but I think this really goes back to the first 2 reasons)

    I know that when people in a combox read these kinds of things the messenger usually gets the short haircut. But we as a church have got to do better at evangelizing, teaching, training up, and supporting the masses. I think that ultimately numbers will go down and then come back up again, once we get on track and lift our heads out of the sand. I hope that happens sooner rather than later.

    1. The happy clappy church doesn’t work; eventually that gets tiresome as well. When the church was at its greatest, were there “greeters” and others in the church who stress community over reverence and truth? Case in point, my happy, clappy church has a bunch of people standing in a circle after Mass consuming the remnants of the Body and Blood of Christ while the din in the church would make a bat go deaf. Is this the kind of church that would attract and keep its members? Go to a traditional Mass where people are dressed decently and act appropriately in the House of God, a/k/a the Holy of Holies. These traditional Catholics put God first, others second. The churches that are losing people put people first, then God. Isn’t it obvious what the answer is? BRING BACK REVERENCE AND HOLY BEHAVIOR IN CHURCH.

      1. I think the problems are deeper and more cultural than the things you mention which are more about taste and preferences. The deeper cultural issues inciting unbelief are things like living on the dark side of the Cartesian divide, being a a post-Kantian period where scientism, individualism, anti-authoritarian, suspicion of institutions, nominalism and so forth.

        Your appeal to reverence is fine but remember too some of the “happy-clappy” stuff mention is operative in the Evangelical Churches, many of which are vigorous. There’s more to the picture and the solution that merely appealing to traditional Catholic sensibilities.

        1. Culture is EVERYTHING in terms of evangelization… So we learn from the collected works of St. JPII. What I imagine Frank sees in “traditional” culture is a living breathing source of life that responds to the genuine human needs of those who engage it. But this is not the unique preserve of the mass in Latin or any other language. What I’ve discovered in my travels (and here I’m reaching out a hand to my brother priest, Msgr. Pope) is that genuine human needs can be met by many different types of cultures. A culture is perfected as it adapts itself to the realities of the Gospel. The more people perceive their hearts’ yearnings being met, the more they adhere to the culture. Much of the last fifty years of attempted-cultural-output by the institutional Church has clearly been inadequate to the yearnings of our people’s hearts… a reality to be recognized and addressed… but we ought not fault the good people who TRIED to engender a new culture for a new era in our history. That they may have failed is no commentary on their good hearts and noble efforts… It just means we need to try all the more because, again, Culture is EVERYTHING. Peace!

      2. Frank, I’m not sure if your reply was actually meant for my post or not. I’m confused with your happy clappy comment. I believe that the Roman Catholic Church can be on fire and vibrant without looking like an episode of sesame street. a person can give a smile to another person and still remain reverent.

        I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about the “irreverent” attire or attitudes of other people in our church, I am usually enamored with my own sinfulness and unworthiness to receive the many graces that come from Mass.

        but now we are off topic from my original post. If you want more reverence and holy behavior at mass, people need to be trained up for it. They need to see priests who LOVE, LOVE, LOVE their vocations. We need to be teaching the catechism in catholic schools(something that is not happening in any of the schools that I’ve been involved with) People need to not only be taught if something is good or bad, they need to be taught why. If they are not taught why, they will disregard it at some point in their lives.

        Bishops need to do a better job of knowing what they have in their priests.And find some way to bring revival to the ones who need it. I live in a rural area and we have had a terrible run of priests (disregard for vow of chastity) in the 3 parishes that I’ve been involved with since the early 80’s (all 3 parishes are side by side). I can’t even begin to tell you how hard that has been on the faith of the parishioners here. I know that they tend to keep the better priests in the larger parishes in the city and give us the lazy, do-nothings, to minimize the damage they do.(at least that is the conclusion our laity has come too) If priests don’t love what they do, and if they don’t model that they love what they do, they become a model in negative ways for our youth, those youth grow up to become parents and the snowball gets out of control.

  12. I honestly think that America will go the way of Europe – 2% Mass attendance. The march of secularism just continues on and the homosexualists really have a hold on the younger generation. I wish the Church would return to her traditions rather than constantly trying to accomadate culture. As my husband says, young people come with an inbuilt “BS meter.” They know darn well that the Church does not support immorality no matter how open we pretend to be. It is time for the Church to be the Church fully: whatever the merits of Vatican II, what I know for sure is that the 1,950 years prior produced many saints in very difficult, and in many cases secular, and revolutionary times. Let us return to tradition.

    1. I notice that some parishes that have the TLM are flourishing, at least in the south. I think any parish resurgence has to start with liturgy. For some reason many in the Church think the Catholic Church has to become more protestant in order to attract protestants. The Truth should suffice and if it doesn’t that is not the fault of the Church but a reflection of what has ailed man since Jesus came…..a tendency to place more importance on one’s political ideology than on the teachings of Jesus and His Church, the Catholic Church.

    2. The Church I dropped out of was still basically the traditional one. The Church I came back to was the New Mass and fervor, and I am filled with joy to be here. I wouldn’t dream of going to a traditional Mass. It would be too much like the hell of my youth. I dare say that some who leave the Church now will feel the same about the Novus Ordo when they come back. The best thing is to have options.

  13. Those claiming the Pew survey is overstating the problem are deceiving themselves. Even among those who go to Mass, heresy is almost universal. And I’m not talking about sin, which all of us commit, but deliberate rejection of Church doctrine. But Monsignor makes an essential point about being optimistic for the future. If the Orthodox Church can emerge and grow after 70+ years of atheist tyranny, then certainly Catholics in the West have reason for hope. Despair will not lead to positive change.

      1. I was referring to the posters above who are claiming the numbers of atheists and agnostics is being overstated in polling. I think the polling is, if anything, understating the problem because it doesn’t account for those who still self-identity with Catholicism even if they reject its basic tenets. I apologize for the confusion.

  14. I find there are more Catholics out there than willing to admit to it.

    People are so afraid to talk about Religion or Politics for fear of offending anyone. Sadly, it is this fear that eats away at them, causing their hearts to harden. You can almost hear the relief in their voices when they discreetly tell you that “they are Catholic too”. Others will say things like “recovering catholic” or simply “raised catholic”.

    I believe these folks would be more easily converted if we “mainline” Catholics were just slightly more courageous in our own faith. I don’t mean we should go Jerry Falwell at work, but having a religious icon at your desk, speaking about time spent at Mass or other Church affiliated events with joy (and not even a hint of shame) would be a beautiful yet subtle call to them.

    I recall a few years back, one of those “raised Catholics” attended a Catholic funeral. She remarked how much she liked it.

    Funny how in her “enlightened, former Catholic” heart, she still felt Gods presence at the funeral.

    We are not all gifted orators, nor do we have to be. We simply have to be unashamedly us. Let God do the rest. We will catch more than we can count.

  15. It is a great time to be Catholic! Buck up people. Read your catechism in public. Listen…..when you have the left and protestants against you it’s just further proof that the Church that Jesus founded is the One True Church.

  16. Nice summary, Monsigor. I would add that Greg Popcak of Faith on the Couch Blog points out that the Pew data may be showing the long-term consequences of divorce. He cites other studies showing “that divorce and the resulting inability to idealize caregivers is behind a great deal of the move to unbelief.”

  17. Where you find holy priests, you will find a reverent, holy congregation. They stand out like lilies at the beginning of spring. St. John Vianney, pray for priests.

  18. Thanks Father! What a relief from an intriguing news, which is more baffling than worrisome.

    Here in the Philippines we don’t feel such loss of catholic faith, thanks be to God, since 86% of the population they say is catholic, so the media news I watched was more intriguing. And after reading your article, it’s been demythologized like overpopulation.

    I think Catholics here in the Philippines just sort of deactivate and then reactivates again after some religious illumination or answered prayers after undergoing life problems. What we worry are too many sinful catholics or non practicing catholics while the rest of the population grows and likewise the catholic numbers. We don’t even give any concern about the numbers.

    I, as an ex-seminarian, worry more about the uneducated Catholics who don’t understand their faith, and so their moral responsibilities. I grew questioning what’s the true religion since we’ve so much christian groups here too beside the nonchristian ones though their numbers are few. Since I’m a Catholic, my concern is how I can educate my Catholic brothers and sisters more about our faith. The problem is, no one is asking me. And since I feel unworthy to recruit, I only explain my faith to those who asks.

    I pray that all the Christians of the world be the leaven, however small, will make the whole dough rise, so that the Kingdom of God may come.

  19. My own experiences is that I think the Pew survey may well be right. At my 2010 8th grade Catholic school reunion(class of 1966) I learned that of the 86 students about 70 were still alive,but about 20% still consideredd themselves Catholic and went to Mass. Among them, were some of the MOST devout student, the possible nuns and priests. The boys who served Mass frequently and were chosen for special Masses like say with the bishop. Likewise, the girls who were the nuns favorites, These were the kids who were seen at ALL the major parish functions in important roles. I was shocked. Fast forward, to my 2010 minor seminary reunion, of the 34 surviving members of the class 2 were priests, one had become a religious brother,but died, and of the remaining members,once again, about .25% were still Catholic. Once again, I was shocked,especially when I learned the seemingly best and brightest (the smartest kids in the class),were no longer Catholic. Likewise, the most devout. The two members of our class who WERE ordained, were two of the most UNLIKELY priests you would ever meet. They are,however, BELOVED in the parishes and by those who know them.
    In my own family, I am the oldest of six sons. We were raised in a very devout family even after my dad died in 1973 at the age of 47 when I was 20 and my youngest brother was 9. I married a year later(in the Church).The brother next to me in age moved out at 20. Mum raised the rest of my brothers while working two jobs and putting them through Catholic grade school(my youngest brother like ME was lucky enough to go Catholic High School). She remarried in 1980,unhappily, I later learned.How many of us still go Mass etc? @, me and a middle brother. One is a Lutheran, like his wealthy wife’s family and raised his son as one. The others do not attend any church,including my youngest brother, who after major seminary for awhile,got a master’s degree in Theology and worked as a DRE in five different parish over 20 years. He became so disillusioned with the Church and the way he felt he was treated that left the Church. Once again, the MOST member left. When he left, he said this to ME”IF you want to keep your faith, DON’T work for the Church.
    Finally, Nate is on to something,only the way I saw it described in print was the rise of the “nominals”. i.e people who attend services,but do NOT hold to all the beliefs of their religious tradition.

  20. All the research is wrong. Catholics are on the rise according to most studies. The Pew Forum is notoriously biased to liberalism. You cannot form a model based on one study.

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